Torture, Covid-19 and border pushbacks: Stories of migration to Europe at the time of Covid-19

pushbacks comic brush and bow landscape

The lived experience of people navigating the EU external border during the Covid-19 pandemic has brought into sharper focus the way border violence has become embedded within the landscape of migration. Here BVMN are sharing a feature article and comic strip from artistic journalist collective Brush&Bow which relays the human stories behind pushbacks, and the protracted violence which has come to characterise journeys along the Balkan Route. The researchers and artists spent time with transit communities along the Western Balkan Route, as well as speaking to network members Centre for Peace Studies, No Name Kitchen & Info Kolpa about their work. Combined with the indepth article (linked below) the comic strip brings to life much of the oral testimonies collected in the BVMN shared database, visualising movement and aspiration – as well as the counterforce of border violence.

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Violence in Numbers: 1000th pushback testimony recorded by BVMN


The Hungarian border fence, installed on the EU’s external border with Serbia (Source:Rigardu)

Translations:Español, FrançaisDeutsch.

In March, the Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) published its 1000th testimony, marking a sad landmark. The case, documenting a pushback from Greece to Turkey, adds to the online archive collated by the network, bearing witness to over four years of systemic violence against people-on-the-move at borders in the Balkans. Beginning with reports of pushbacks from Hungary in January 2017, after the formal closure of the humanitarian corridor, the database charts these violations to the present day, visualising the spread of pushbacks across the EU external border. Each entry on the database accounts for a single pushback incident, but these cases often affect transit groups of over 50 persons. Therefore the thousand testimonies relate the experience of over 15,000 people, exposing the high levels of violence and abuse they face, which amount in many cases to torture. We look back here at the primary findings from this huge body of evidence and describe how BVMN has been monitoring these trends.

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Balkan Region Report – January 2021

Monthly Report on pushbacks

In January, the Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN) reported on 21 illegal pushbacks, affecting 684 people in total. This report summarises the latest trends in border policing and provides updates from across the Balkans on violence being perpetrated against people-on-the-move. Specifically, patterns in pushback practice are examined alongside several important court rulings and EU level developments.

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OHCHR Submission: The role of technology in illegal pushbacks from Croatia to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia

Today we are sharing BVMN’s submission to the un Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, xenophobia and related intolerance for the report on Race, Borders, and Digital Technologies.

The use of technology in pushback practices has only contributed to the ease in which these racist and repressive procedures are carried out against people-on-the-move in the Balkans. Devices like drones, thermal imaging cameras, and vehicle scanners have been weaponised against people-on-the-move, making them easier to detect and thus compounding their vulnerability and the dangers they face. With the support from network member’s No Name Kitchen, Info Kolpa and other anonymous partners, BVMN submitted this report to the Special Rapporteur last year, where it is now being hosted. Continue reading “OHCHR Submission: The role of technology in illegal pushbacks from Croatia to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia”